North Carolina’s appellate courts declare that violence is violence regardless if same-sex or opposite-sex relationship.

Domestic violence has been labeled as an “epidemic” in our country. Statistics show that one in every three women and one in four men in the United States will experience some form of domestic violence at the hands of their intimate partner. Just as domestic violence can affect heterosexual relationships, it can affect LGBTQ+ relationships as well. 

North Carolina provides two avenues for individuals to seek relief from their abuser: N.C.G.S. § 50B and N.C.G.S. § 50C. The main differences between the two statutes are the relationship between the parties and the relief granted. It is because of these differences that North Carolina’s LGBTQ+ population was not afforded the same protections from their abusers as their counterparts in heterosexual relationships. Most notably, LGBTQ+ couples are not recognized as a protected relationship enumerated under N.C.G.S. § 50B-1(b)[1].

LGBTQ+ couples that did not meet the criteria to obtain a Domestic Violence Protective Order (DVPO) under N.C.G.S. § 50B-1 had no other choice but to obtain a Civil No-Contact Order under N.C.G.S. § 50C. While both DVPO and Civil No-Contact Orders offer legal protections from abusers, the relief granted are not the same. Generally speaking, a Civil No-Contact Order under N.C.G.S. § 50C provides less protections than a DVPO.

However, all of this changed on December 31, 2020, when the North Carolina Court of Appeals ruled in the case of M.E. v. T.J. that N.C.G.S. § 50B-1(b)(6), violates a victim’s due process and equal protection rights under the Constitution.  Speaking for the Court, Justice McGee wrote, “[b]y telling Plaintiff that her existence is not as valuable as that of individuals who engage in “opposite-sex” relationships, the State is not just needlessly endangering Plaintiff, it is expressing State-sanctioned animus toward her.”  If the court finds acts of domestic violence have occurred in a dating relationship, then the victim is entitled to relief under the Domestic Violence statute regardless if the relationship is a same sex dating relationship or a relationship between members of the opposite sex

For more information, contact an attorney at Ward Family Law Group today.

[1] The statute specifically provides protective status to “persons of opposite sex” who live together or who are in a dating relationship.

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